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Celebrate the Giro with Franciacorta

Words by Clive Pursehouse with images from the Franciacorta Consortium

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The fireworks at the 2019 Giro d’Italia are at a crescendo. The climbing stages have seen a shift in tactics and a change in laundry as the maglia rosa moved from Slovenian Jan Polanc, whose breakaway exploits gave him enough cushion to hold the jersey a few days, to Ecuadorian climbing phenom Richard Carapaz. And the drama continues to build on the final mountain stages in northeast Italy.

Despite our mourning of the removal of a snowbound Passo Gavia, Tuesday’s stage 16 still boasted 4,800 meters of climbing and the tough side of the Mortirolo. But before the riders began gritting their teeth on those 20-percent pitches, the day began on the bucolic shores of the Lago d’Iseo—which is sandwiched between two more famous lakes, Como and Garda. But, famous for another reason, Lake Iseo’s southern shores are home to an Italian wine region known as Franciacorta.

Franciacorta produces wine in a style created in France’s Champagne region through what is known as méthode traditionelle. After completing initial fermentation, wine is bottled with liqueur de tirage, a combination of yeast (also known as lees) and sugar that sets off a second bottle fermentation and produces those wonderful tiny bubbles. The region received its DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) in 1995, and it represents the pinnacle region in terms of Italian sparkling wines.

These Franciacorta wines are produced with the traditional grapes used in the Champagne region—Chardonnay and Pinot Noir—as well as smaller amounts of the less-traditional Pinot Blanc. The minimum production requirements in Franciacorta exceed those in Champagne. Where Champagne has developed its reputation for quality on tradition, the young Franciacorta uses strict quality control. The result is a wine with a classic rounded mouthfeel but with a vibrancy and freshness, classic (of course), with a sense of Italian flare and a tremendously accessible price tag.

Bellavista Franciacorta Alma Cuvée Brut
The Bellavista reputation for quality has largely lifted and advanced the entire region. This sparkling wine is a blend of 30 different selections, including older vintages blended in. This is a lot of wine for $30, with aromas and flavors of baking bread, lemon crème and white flowers. $30

Faccoli Franciacorta Extra Brut
From only five hectares of 40-year-old vines, the Faccoli sparkling wines use the same grapes as they do in Champagne—and this wine could easily be mistaken for one. Creamy, rich and accented with citrus notes and chalky minerality. $40